there’s the alarming news about ebola, & then there’s this

Over on Sciblogs, Siouxsie Wiles has been writing about the spread of an Ebola virus outbreak in west Africa (here  here, for example). It's alarming stuff: a virus with a high mortality rate, in combination with the potential for infected people to travel more widely than in the past before succumbing.

Sadly, it didn't take long for the pedlars of pseudoscientific nonsense to get on the bandwagon. First it was homeopathy (apparently homeopathic concentrations of rattlesnake venom and other 'remedies' will do the trick – I wonder how they found that out?) In his blog post on this, Orac has commented

You know what they call an Ebola victim foolish enough to use these five homeopathic remedies in the hope of curing their disease? Almost certainly dead, that's what!


And then there's this. I should really give that page to my first-year bio students & see what they make of it: they'd certainly pick up on the author's statement that our cells have walls! What's more:

It's impossible for a virus to live in the presence of pure, unadulterated cinnamon oil, so getting that oil into our bloodstreams to create an environment hostile to the virus is important.

Viruses are only active within living cells, and I'm fairly confident in saying that our own cells can't live in "pure, unadulterated cinnamon oil" either. (I do want to know, though, why the author feels that one must anoint one's feet with the stuff!)

However, the page does have references, and we're urged to read them, so let's look at those sources to see if they back up the claims being made for cinnamon oil. There are "13 studies on cinnamon oil and viruses" from PubMed, for example, as well as a couple of in vitro studies. 

Well yes, yes, there are – but I doubt the page's author actually read them, despite asking their readers to check the links. For several references of that PubMed list are for various studies that used LEC (Long-Evans Cinnamon) rats, while others are discussing avian flu in a range of waterfowl that includes cinnamon teal – nothing to do with using an essential oil against viruses! Of the remainder, one is a study of herbal medicines that include cinnamon bark (not oil); one looks at the efficacy of a range of traditional medicines (again, including cinnamon bark) on baculovirus in silkworms; two others look at using flavonoids (hint: not oils) from cinnamon as a potential drug in fighting HIV. 

I will confess to being underwhelmed. And concerned that anyone might take this stuff seriously.

15 thoughts on “there’s the alarming news about ebola, & then there’s this”

  • For further discussion I would like to bring up these points. There is some research that indicates that Cinnamon maybe effective against a virus and not just bacteria. The studies that have been done were on HIV and adenovirus. During the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic Cinnamon in powder form or oil were mixed with milk and used as a remedy. An Israeli researcher applied for a patent for a cinnamon based virus fighter product in 2007. Tell tale signs but it gives some credence to it’s efficacy as a virus fighter that cannot be entirely discounted.
    Ebola also shows classic symptoms that Cinnamon is well known the address. Chiefly abdominal pain, stomach upsets, joint and muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea and loss of appetite. Might Cinnamon be a fairly reasonable stop gap measure at least?

  • Alison Campbell says:

    During the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic Cinnamon in powder form or oil were mixed with milk and used as a remedy. – with what effect? Where is the evidence showing that this was at least as good as the normal standard of care in 1918?
    An Israeli researcher applied for a patent for a cinnamon based virus fighter product in 2007. – as I noted in my blog post, flavonoids from cinnamon may be useful. This is not the same as wholesale ingestion of either oil or powder, where there is no control over the concentration & dose of active ingredients.
    classic symptoms that Cinnamon is well known the address – citations, please.
    Interesting that you have no comments on the total irrelevance of the references claimed in support of using cinnamon oil against ebola…

  • I’ve seen the book “Modern Essentials 5th edition” list cinnamon oil in solutions to ebola. This struck me as very odd because Ebola is so flagrantly lethal, and cinnamon oil burns skin! I’d like to know where they draw the line at saying ” you can buy the Modern Essentials book” in context of their company policy not making medical claims;- as opposed to saying,” well you can buy an ice cream cone” in context of the company. I bet they plug the book more.

  • Keyword hits without considering that the words might have a different context… nice spot of checking, Alison.
    As for suggesting cinnamon, I sometimes wonder what’s next: each new “alternative” suggestion seems sillier than the last 🙁

  • I have a book from the Naturopathic College in New Zealand that I have owned for over 20 years that lists cinnamon as helpful for hemorrhage and this is well known to midwives also. I myself have had success with this remedy for hemorrhaging. So with these properties in addition to cinnamon’s antibacterial properties, I can understand why it is being suggested as a cure.

  • No one is saying to not try other things for ebola but if all of this is potentially helpful why not try it all. I use essential oils and it really is amazing. Did you know that thyme oil kills staph? (On pubmed) I once read in a book about oregano oil that cited a study in Germany where oregano oil sterilized septic water. Been looking for study but have not found.
    Everything man made comes from something in nature.
    look up frankincense and cancer on pubmed, you’ll be there for hours…the stuff basically cures cancer. People in Oman and other countries eat the resin off the trees like gum but here it’s considered ‘not for human consumption’.
    Clearly the FDA doesn’t want people to get better. They won’t make money that way.
    This epidemic in Africa is man-made.

  • Alison Campbell says:

    “… the stuff basically cures cancer.”
    There is no evidence of this on pubmed. There is evidence that a range of essential oils can kill cancer cells in the petri dish. This is not a cure for cancer, nor does it support the idea of self-medication – internally, anyway – as many essential oils appear to be cytotoxic to normal cells as well.
    “Clearly the FDA doesn’t want people to get better. They won’t make money that way.”
    The FDA is not a money-making institution. However, it’s worth noting that there is a huge amount of money spent each year on ‘alternative’ medicines (including homeopathy) – there is a lot of money in this industry.
    “This epidemic in Africa is man-made.”
    Citations please.

  • “can kill cancer cells in the petri dish. This is not a cure for cancer,”
    – a very wide range of things can kill cancer cells in petri dishes, but all but a tiny handful are much use in a body.
    “Clearly the FDA doesn’t want people to get better. They won’t make money that way.”
    The FDA is a government regulatory body, not a treatment facility or a business.
    It’s worth nothing that ‘natural’ or ‘alternative’ remedy industry has far less regulatory control and that this is part of the reason you see quite wild claims made about their products.
    “This epidemic in Africa is man-made.”
    While the _spread_ of the disease hasn’t been helped by crowding and lack of basic resources, the disease is a natural infection that comes from bats, like a few other rather nasty viruses including the Marburg virus. (Hantaviruses have also been found in bats, but are more usually associated with rodents.) In a generally similar sort of way, our influenza (flu) infections originally come from pigs and birds.

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  • Alison Campbell says:

    I’ve approved this comment (which is obviously spam) for one purpose only – to highlight the tendency of quacks to claim that they have the cure for nearly every disorder under the sun. If this ‘doctor’ really had the cure for cancer then he should be publishing his data for all to see and use. But of course, he doesn’t, not least because cancer is not a single disease but a large number of distinct disorders.

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